Property Swapping Here, There and Everywhere
For many, the word "swapping" can have some very different and diverse interpretations.
Go back to 1969 and the Paul Mazursky movie Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, which certainly had a slight twist on the theme.
Later, Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning caught the public's imagination with the record company slaying Napster, where music became "freeware" – downloaded from the internet and shared or swapped.
While now, our voyage leads to the merging of resort homes and property owners who are looking to change places and spaces.
It's "fusion property" and I can almost hear a deep sigh of relief from my beleaguered editor who often suffers from erratic side trips into the realm of the bizarre, as he comes to the realization this is actually a column about property.
As high season and the cocktail circuit of booze-filled conversations moves along, I find myself counting how many island property owners have mentioned a trip into the world of "home exchanges".
For both full and part-time residents of Phuket, the allure of a flee villa in the Swiss Alps or a rollick in the Tuscan countryside is too good to resist.
So why not take a beautiful resort property and all the sun soaked luxury Phuket offers and also find an alternate experience in some far-off snowy mountain resort – or even urban New York City? Surfboard or snowboard? Jekyll or Hyde? Up to you.
Intrigued, I started to make a few phone calls to recount exactly who said what between endless glasses of red wine.
I also began to see a common thread of websites – referenced in far more sober surroundings. By all accounts from those "in the know", one of the premium websites is ExclusiveExchanges.com, which touts itself as "The Luxury Home Exchange". For an annual membership fee of USS159, the website offers access to a wide assortment of houses which can accommodate anything from a small group of four to ultra units for over 20 people.
HomeExchange.com is another site, offering more mainstream content. It has over 38,000 listings in 137 countries. The slogan on the site is, "Travel anywhere… for free". The resources on this site are considerable, with FAQs on topics ranging from sample letters and agreements to getting to know your exchange partner and a trading guarantee. If you don't trade in the first year, the next year's membership is free. A 12-month membership costs about US$119.
As with all things internet-related, the number of home exchange sites is on the rise.
Another high-ranking site is HomeForExchange.com. Priced from just US$59 per year, its unique selling point includes last-minute trades and a host of recommendations.
Those keen on playing spin the bottle with Google, Yahoo or Safari search engines will discover even more possibilities. Even uber-popular Craigslist.org has a section titled "Housing Swap".
Based on discussions with a number of local homeowners who have done home exchanges, experiences seem to run the gamut from absolute joy to disenfranchisement.
Though many sites have repeat users, working with a number of websites to find the best fit is perhaps key to successful swaps.
It seems that getting off the rock, especially now with easy access and an increasing number of value-oriented flight options, is becoming more and more of a reality.
All thus can be done while putting your existing investment in Phuket property to work in an increasingly accessible world with changing places and faces. Seeing something other than the old "same-same" has never been easier.